Proposal | College of Information Sciences and Technology
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A typical proposal process/steps might look like this:

  • Target a sponsor, it may be a federal agency, corporation, foundation, state agency, or a consortium
  • Inform the IST Research Administration Office  by completing a Proposal Information Form indicating your intent to submit a proposal
  • Identify collaborators who will be working with you on your project
  • Work with the Office of Research Administration staff to establish a budget and determine proposal requirements
  • Submit proposal
  • Award is negotiated at OSP
  • Receive funding (awards are made to Penn State University.)

Types of Awards

Gifts to the University support a variety of faculty activities. Gift characteristics include:

  • A letter stating it is a gift.
  • A check in-advance.
  • No statement of work.
  • No formal financial reports are required.
  • No formal technical reports are required.
  • No deliverables are required for the activities supported.

Sometimes industrial sponsors or donors send the check directly to the faculty member which is then processed via the Office of Research Administration.

Unrestricted grants to the faculty support a multitude of research activities. Unrestricted grant characteristics include:

  • A check in-advance.
  • No statement of work.
  • No restrictions on publications.
  • No restrictions on intellectual property.
  • Less than $50,000 per fiscal year.

Grants and cooperative agreements are employed when the principal objective of the sponsor is the transfer rather than the acquisition of project results/outcomes to accomplish a public purpose. Grant characteristics include:

  • Sponsor’s principal objective is the accomplishment of a public utilization.
  • Project usually has stated goals and objectives.
  • Substantial sponsor involvement is not expected.
  • Sponsor has expectations about how the funds will be spent.
  • Grant deliverables may include formal technical reports.
  • Financial reporting and/or accounting are required.

Contracts are used when the principal objective of the sponsor is the acquisition of property or services for the direct benefit of the sponsor. Contract characteristics include:

  • Specific deliverables are stipulated in negotiations.
  • Project performance is monitored by the sponsor.
  • Technical reports are required.
  • Detailed financial reports are required.

Master agreements are emerging as a favored type of administrative structure and are most common with industry. These are umbrella agreements that support faculty activities through task orders and are negotiated via OSP.

Proposal Development / Submission

Lead Times

You should allow sufficient time for budget development, revisions and compliance measures.

  • 1 Month notice – for proposal budgets over $1 Million or if proposal includes a subcontract
  • 3 weeks notice – for all other proposal submissions
  • 3 days before deadline – budget should be FINALIZAED (including subcontracts)
  • Day before deadline by NOON – final technical portion (i.e., project summary, description, etc.) should be sent to your IST Research Coordinator  for final review and submission.

Proposals that involve responses to RFPs (Requests for Proposals) or RFQs (Requests for Quotes) usually require certifications, representations and special terms and conditions that may require additional review time. Any proposal to an foreign agency will need to have an export review completed PRIOR to submission.

NOTE: The average interval between the submission of a proposal and the award of a grant from Federal agencies is from six to ten months. Principal investigators should take this delay into consideration in planning for the submission of proposals.


  • Proposal Prep Guide: Useful information for new investigators that help to summarize the proposal process
  • IRB: The Office of Research Protections site provides information and resources on IRB, COI, UIC, etc. to protect human subjects, students, and faculty involved in the project.
  • Patents & Licensing: The Office of Technology Management will help you protect your invention. The Patents & Licensing site will provide you with the specific policies and guidelines  as well as IPA forms and additional information needed for technology development.
  • COINS: The Conflict of Interest System for Penn State. This site is used by all Penn State individuals to electronically complete and submit their Significant Financial Interest Disclosures on a yearly and/or on an as-needed basis as required by Penn State’s Disclosure and Management of Significant Financial Interests Policy (RA20). 

Award Negotiation


The Principal Investigator (PI) is responsible for understanding the terms and conditions of their awards. All awards received by Penn State faculty members are actually awards made to the University. Penn State assumes all financial responsibility and guarantees completion of the project.

Steps for award acceptance:

  1. The Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) receives notification that the sponsor wishes to support the project.
  2. If a grant or cooperative agreement, OSP reviews the award guidelines and recommends that the University either accept it as offered or with minor changes to non-technical details.

If a contract, OSP enters into formal negotiations with the sponsor and reviews the non-technical details of the contract such as copyrights, patents, export default, and termination clauses. After all parties agree to the content of the contract, the University accepts the award.

Receive Funding

Start Date: Grant start dates are usually determined by the sponsor of the award. Faculty has access to the funding as soon as the University accounting system is ready. Contracts are not as predictable, because, in some cases, the start date is specified while in others it is determined by the final signature date. The final signatory may be the University or the sponsor, depending on the contract. Funds are not released to the University until the official start date of the project.

Account Number: When a start date has been determined, ORA establishes an account number.

Expenditures: Faculty manage award funds and initiate all expenditures. The F.O. approves expenses. For FDP sponsors, faculty occasionally wish to expend funds before the award is finalized. In these cases, the principal investigator can request an Advance Fund Number (AFN) prior to acceptance of the award when there is a solid commitment from the sponsor. The College/Faculty assumes all risk in covering AFN expenditures.

Faculty Responsibilities:  It is up to the individual researcher to identify any restrictions, determine eligibility, etc. before submitting a proposal. The University assumes legal responsibility for all funded projects. The principal investigator is responsible for the management, research, and technical reporting activities. All technical reports and project deliverables are the full responsibility of the faculty member. The principal investigator must maintain contact with the sponsor’s technical monitor and comply with all technical reporting requirements. The principal investigator must also initiate correspondence through ORA with the sponsor’s administrative or contract monitor to request programmatic or budgetary changes.